Main Panel

Old 05-05-04, 09:49 AM
Tony Scaran
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Main Panel

As I read a question concerning the Main Panel, it occured to me that with this modern, fast changing technology at some point and time the upgrade of the main panel must be considered. My home is only 15 years old...but in recent years, with multiple computers, radios, ceiling fans, grarage door openers, outdoor lighting, etc., and as a safety factor, what are the conditions that determine whether the panel should be upgraded or replaced?
Thank you,
Old 05-05-04, 09:58 AM
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You only need to consider upgrading or replacing your main panel if you are having problems with your existing circuits or if you need to add new circuits and don't have room for them. Even then, it is sometimes possible to just add a new circuit or two to the existing panel, rather than replacing the panel.

A 15 year old house is fairly new, and most likely has enough breakers that overloaded circuits are not an issue. Are you constantly tripping breakers? What are your plans for future use? Do you want to use power hungry tools in the garage or basement? Do you want to build a workshop somewhere? Do you need to add new circuits?
Old 05-05-04, 10:10 AM
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Main panels are replaced because (1) they are of an old unsafe design, (2) they have deteriorated due to rust or other environmental factors, (3) it is no longer feasible to get new breakers for them and you need more circuits, (4) they provide insufficient room for new breakers, (5) they provide insufficient power. If you have one of the first three conditions, then a panel replacement is probably warranted. If you have the fourth condition, you can usually solve the problem more cheaply with tandem breakers and/or a subpanel. If you have the fifth condition, you'll know when the main breaker trips.

But you may not want to wait for the main breaker to trip before doing something, or you may be planning for future power needs, near or long term. In those cases, the common approach is to do a "demand load calculation". A google search for that term will point you to some sites that tell you how to do that.

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